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French and Italian Comparative Tasting Dinner

Middletown Township, NJ, USA

Tasted November 19, 2021 by oldwines with 36 views


At Jim's behest we organized an epic dinner and tasting that ended up being hosted at Jeremy and Amy's house. We paired one each of a French and Italian wine with a French and/or Italian inspired dish which Glenn and I prepared. There was an introductory sparkler and "Amuse Busche", then 2 flights/courses each of white and red wines followed by dessert. The first white and the first red flights/courses featured similar native French and Italian grapes. The second white and red flights/courses featured the same varietals from the different countries. The experience of the group with wine varied but for the majority most of the wines were "first timers" and this was intended to be both fun and educational.

Flight 1 - Italian Sparkler with "Autumn Soup" Shooter (1 note)

I chose an Italian Sparkler and this one in particular since it was the first one commercially made in Piemonte way back in 1978 and as a variation on the (perhaps) expected French version. The soup is my recipe variation of Patrick O'Connell's (The Inn at Little Washington) Rutabaga and Granny Smith Apple Soup.

White - Sparkling
2010 Podere Rocche dei Manzoni Piemonte Valentino Brut Riserva Elena Italy, Piedmont, Piemonte DOC
90 points
Another nice bottle of this, served as an aperitif before the start of a comparative tasting of French and Italian wines along with dinner. Very light small bubbled mousse, good tangy persistence with slight yeastiness. Refreshing and bright. Still fresh. But probably not for much longer.

Flight 2 - Native White Wines of France and Italy with Arugula, Endive and Radicchio Salad with Crumbled Crisp Prosciutto, Toasted Almonds and Pear Dressing (2 notes)

We served a 100% Marsanne Crozes-Hermitage Blanc from Colombier and a 100% Fiano from Mastroberardino's Radici vineyard plot. The salad had a sweet pear vinaigrette which balanced nicely with both wines. I preferred the Rhone due to its lower acidity but on average the group preferred the Fiano. Both I thought worked well and illustrated different pairing styles.

2015 Mastroberardino Fiano di Avellino Radici Italy, Campania, Fiano di Avellino DOCG
92 points
This shows real depth and complexity, nice minerality and bright acidity. The fruit is a melange of stone, orchard and citrus. Really delicious and a great food wine. It has a nice dense almost chewy texture which I love.
1 person found this helpful Comment
2017 Domaine du Colombier Crozes-Hermitage Blanc Cuvée Gaby France, Rhône, Northern Rhône, Crozes-Hermitage
92 points
Another lovely bottle of this wine… wonderful texture, an almost tannic like a red wine yet moderately bright and full of stone fruit, hints of tropical fruit and and a bit of a saline finish. Excellent with a pear vinaigrette dressed salad.

Flight 3 - Chardonnays with Seared Sea Scallopsand Cauliflower Curry, Creamed Corn and Bacon (2 notes)

Several people raved about the dish and it was enjoyed by all. Both wines were perfect with it but several people thought the Chablis drank better alone while the Bussiador was better with the dish.

2014 Domaine Pinson Frères Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos France, Burgundy, Chablis, Chablis Grand Cru
94 points
Second flight tasted opposite a 2012 Aldo Conterno Bussiador. Quickly double decanted before taking to the tasting. This was wonderfully crisp and balanced with just a hint of some oak (I understand it’s elevate was 90% in steel and 10% in oak). Fruit is not overt but blended nicely with citrus and pear supporting the expected mineral overtones. The majority of the group liked this better by itself but preferred the Bussiadsor with the scallop and creamed corn dish.
2012 Poderi Aldo Conterno Langhe Bussiador Italy, Piedmont, Langhe, Langhe DOC
93 points
Opened a bottle to splash decant and it was modestly oxidized, so I opened another and it was pristine…so double decanted to take to the tasting. Served opposite a 2014 Pinson Chablis Les Clos. This held its own…slightly richer and more dense…more creamy, but not quite “modern” styled. There was nice texture and creamy citrus, along with hints of ripe melon and vanilla spiced finish. The majority of the group preferred this with the scallop and creamed corn dish but preferred the Chablis on its own. This bottle would have lasted a good deal longer in the cellar but the other was clearly not going to…so I am not sure its predictable how long this may age. In my experience it is hot or miss with these….some do last a long time but the hit rate is not great from an odds point of view. I will probably try my last 2 bottles over the next few months.

Flight 4 - Pinot Noir and Nebbiolo with Agnolotti del Plin with Parmigiano, Sage and Butter (2 notes)

Perhaps the dish was not fair as this is a traditional Piemontese dish often served with Barbaresco. Both wines were fantastic but I think the Echezeaux needs a bit more time in the cellar relative to the Barbaresco, though both will last a long time still. On the whole nearly everyone loved the Cortese Barbaresco which was really singing tonight. I actually had 2 bottles, one of which had been partially Coravined previously. The bottle variation was noticeable but different people preferred different bottles. One was more elegant and aromatic, the other more rich and textured. The Echezeaux just didn't seem to have that extra gear to pull ahead this evening. It is a glorious wine nevertheless.

2010 Giuseppe Cortese Barbaresco Rabajà Italy, Piedmont, Langhe, Barbaresco
96 points
Decanted at 11am, given 2-3 hours in the decanter then returned to bottle for transport to the tasting event. Color is a bright slightly translucent garnet. This bottle was just not quite what the previous bottle was….really excellent but missing the beautiful depth of aromatics and lift in the previous bottle. Still a wonderful Barbaresco. Classic in most respects with rose petals, cherry fruit, a hint of licorice and good structure. Just a notch less special in my view. Curiously half the group preferred this bottle to the remaining amount I brought and decanted from the previously Coravined bottle. This was just about everyone’s favorite with the classic Piedmontese Plin pairing and the majority’s wine of the night.
1 person found this helpful Comment
2010 Maison Roche de Bellene Echezeaux France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Echezeaux Grand Cru
95 points
Decanted at 11am, given 2-3 hours in the decanter then returned to bottle for transport to a tasting event. Color is a rich slightly translucent ruby. The nose just soared from the decanter and the glass throughout the evening. It has great richness and mineral depth as well as meaty undertones and nicely balanced fruit on ther red side of the spectrum. This bottle with proper decanting was definitely more expressive than the coravin pours last evening. Wonderful depth and complexity as well.

Flight 5 - Syrah and Elk Tenderloin Medallions with Mushroom Risotto and Candied Carrots (2 notes)

These were the biggest most powerful wines and food as well this evening. The wines were surprisingly similar to everyone though once again on the margin more people seemed to prefer the Migliara. To be fair the Levet La Cavaroche probably needs another 5-10 years to fully flesh out. It may not have been a fair comparison as the Migliara is a solid 6 years older. Pairing was spot on and everyone who tried the Elk was surprised at how it was not too "gamey". I thought the dish was perhaps the best of the evening, but I am a meat lover!

2013 Bernard Levet Côte-Rôtie La Chavaroche / La Péroline France, Rhône, Northern Rhône, Côte-Rôtie
94 points
Decanted at 11am, given 2-3 hours in the decanter then returned to bottle for transport to a tasting event. Tasted opposite a 2007 Luigi d’Alessandro La Migliorini Cortona Syrah. Color is a bright, rich slightly translucent garnet. The nose has soaring aromatics with florals, game meat, a hint of smoke, spices, especially black pepper and plummy fruit. Palate has great structure, is somewhat leaner than the paired Cortona Syrah. Very mineral in character with great acidity and just a little mouth drying tannin and flavors that reflect the nose. Extremely long finish. Wonderful wine that will age very well…probably for decades. Best with more air and getting better as the evening closed. I think in time this will be even better.the group overall felt the two wines were quite similar and enjoyed them both with the Elk Medallions and mushroom risotto.
2 people found this helpful Comment
2007 Tenimenti d'Alessandro Syrah Cortona Podere Migliara Italy, Tuscany, Cortona
95 points
Decanted at 11am, given 2-3 hours in the decanter then returned to bottle for transport to a tasting event. Color is a dense almost opaque garnet. The nose has rich black fruit, spices (lots of black pepper) and some floral elements. Palate just screams rich red and black fruit and spices with some mineral undertones yet this is amazingly balanced and not at all over-ripe or over-extracted. Long luxurious finish. 15 years on this is starting to drink wonderfully and yet has plenty of life remaining. Tasted opposite 2013 Levet La Chavaroche and the group was pretty even on them with most feeling they were on the whole pretty similar.
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Flight 6 - Sauternes with Apple-Pear Tart and Peach Ricotta Pie (1 note)

How could this not go well! Enough said!

White - Sweet/Dessert
2007 Château de Rayne-Vigneau France, Bordeaux, Sauternais, Sauternes
92 points
Very nice Sauternes but not what I would call “epic”. It was pretty spot on in terms of typicity with apricot and peach, bright acidity, good texture and pretty balanced but there were some nice hints of tropical fruit and certainly a honey note on the finish. Refreshing and delicious with the peach ricotta pie and pear-apple tart.
1 person found this helpful Comment


The group seemed quite happy with the results of the evening with a nearly unanimous WOTN in the form of the 2010 Cortese Rabajà by those who expressed an opinion. In general it seemed that this group preferred the Italian wines on the whole more than the French, particularly with the food.

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